Pseudo-martyr. Wherein this conclusion is euicted. That those which are of the Romane religion in this kingdome, may and ought to take the Oath of allegeance.

London, printed by W. Stansby for Walter Burre, 1610.


FIRST EDITION. 4to. pp. (xl), 392. (errata and advertisement to the reader bound after Hhh1) Roman letter, quotes and side notes in Italic. Text within double box rule. Large grotesque woodcut initials in prefaces, smaller foliated woodcut initials in text, woodcut headpieces with the arms of James I, woodcut tailpieces, early autograph of W. Wynson on title repeated on verso, a few pencil notes by Joseph Mendham at head of pastedown, and possibly his marginal pencil marks. Light age yellowing, upper outer corner of title page and next two leaves torn with small loss of box rule, expertly restored, dust soiling in upper and lower margins of first and last few leaves, the odd thumb mark or ink spot. A good copy, crisp and clean, in contemporary limp vellum, pastedowns from an early printed St Augustine, a little soiled, outer edges of covers strengthened with vellum at an early date.

First edition of Donne’s first published text which attempts to persuade English Catholics they can take James I’s Oath of Allegiance, still remain spiritually loyal to Rome and avoid persecution. John Donne published Pseudo-Martyr in 1610, at a moment of extreme political tension between London and Rome. Donne, raised a Catholic, argued his case by appealing to precedents from canon, civil and natural law in existence since the beginning of Christian civilization. The Pseudo-Martyr is, as such, a survey of the relations between church and state from the days of the early church to 1600. Donne draws detailed historical parallels between crises in medieval and contemporary times and the particular dilemma of Catholics in England, to prove that a compromise of loyalties was possible and acceptable.

“John Donne occupies a unique position from which to evaluate the contradictory temporal and spiritual demands placed on Catholics since the breach of Henry VIII with the Church of Rome. By Donne’s early years, there existed severe punishments for those unpersuaded by financial disincentives to recusancy, or refusal to abide by the terms of the Act of Uniformity which required attendance at Church Services. (…) Subsequent acts imposed heavy penalties for activities such as inveterate recusancy, importing or owning Catholic impedimenta, or priest harboring. Donne’s own brother Henry, imprisoned for the later crime, died of plague within days of being transferred from the Clink to Newgate Prison” Olga Valbuena. ‘Casuistry, Martyrdom, and the Allegiance Controversy in Donne’s Pseudo-Martyr.’ “John Donne’s Pseudo-Martyr (1610) makes an important contribution to the defense of King James’s Oath of Allegiance through its author’s careful positioning between extremists on both the Catholic and Protestant sides of the debate.

Where William Barlow insists that Catholic devotion and deference to James’s civil authority are incompatible, and Robert Persons argues that Catholic faith is grossly compromised by swearing James’s Oath, Donne asks English recusants to pledge their loyalty to James without insisting that they change their church denomination. This delineation between public declaration and private religious belief not only distinguishes Pseudo-Martyr as an Oath of Allegiance tract, it also more closely mirrors James’s attitudes toward religious controversy, as they are demonstrated in his own Apologie for the Oath of Allegiance (1607, 1609) and in the other policies he supported with regard to Scottish Presbyterians and Catholics both before and after his ascension to the English throne. In response to this controversy’s fixation on scholarly accuracy, Donne proposes his own, highly innovative use of italics.

This and other innovations further substantiate his claims for scholarly objectivity because they distance Pseudo-Martyr from the fixation on quotational and citational accuracy that typified printed European religious debate throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.” Douglas Trevor. “John Donne’s Pseudo-Martyr and the Oath of Allegiance Controversy.” A good copy from the important library of controversial theology of Joseph Mendham.

STC 7048. ESTC S109984. Keynes, A Bibliography of Dr John Donne, 1. “not a common book”. Pforzheimer I 298. Grolier I 276; Lowndes II p.661; Milward 368


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